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White House reportedly dismissed border crisis as 'local problem' in 2013

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July 17, 2014: This photo shows a new intake facility built to help alleviate overcrowding at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's McAllen Station in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Joel Martinez)

The Obama administration ignored a report to the Department of Homeland Security last year which predicted that a large number of unaccompanied children would arrive at America's southern border in the coming months, according to a published report. 

The Washington Post reported Saturday that a team of experts from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) submitted the 41-page report in August of 2013 after discovering a makeshift transportation depot manned by Border Patrol agents at the Fort Brown station in Brownsville, Texas. The report detailed how thirty agents were assigned to perform such tasks as washing the children's clothes, driving them to offsite showers, and making them sandwiches. 

The report said that an average of 66 children were taken into custody each day and more than 24,000 cycled through patrol stations in Texas alone in 2013. 

The study's leader, a former Border Patrol agent named Victor Manjarrez Jr., told the Post that the government had little reaction to the report's warning and viewed the situation as a "local problem." Manjarrez added that a crisis on the scale of what has developed over the past several months was "not on anyone's radar [even though] it was pretty clear this number of kids was going to be the new baseline."

Cecilia Munoz, President Obama's chief domestic policy adviser, told the Post that federal officials only realized this past May that the number of children crossing the border would exceed the Border Patrol's original estimate of 60,000 for the year. The Border Patrol has since revised that estimate to 90,000 children by the end of September. 

However, one former senior federal law enforcement official told the Post that Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had warned the White House of the potential for a significant surge of migrant children at the border as early as 2012. 

The paper reported that warnings came from outside the federal government as well. The Post reports that the first ladies of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico cited "worrisome statistics" showing an upswing in unaccompanied minors in April of that year. That same month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrote a letter informing the president that the number of unaccompanied Central American minors crossing the border was up 90 percent from the previous year. 

"Every day of delay risks more lives," Perry's letter read, in part. "Every child allowed to remain encourages hundreds more to attempt the journey."

The Post reports that such warnings were overshadowed by Obama and his domestic team's push for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress and the fear among Democrats that a potential border crisis would jeopardize any potential legislation. 

"Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times," one former government official told the paper. "Was there a general lack of interest and a focus on the legislation? Yes, that’s where the focus was."

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